Monday, January 17, 2011

In the Moment

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Hello readers. I am coming to you live (although it won't be live when you actually read this) from a hospital in far North Texas. I am in the 'command center' of a this hospital participating in a massive North Texas emergency drill. This drill is being run by the North Texas EOC (Emergency Operations Center) and is testing all the emergency services in North Texas.

This drill is being run to test the various systems in the event of an 'incident' happening at the upcoming Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas.

The drill plays out the scenario that 'something' has happened at the Superbowl such as a bomb which has collapsed a large part of the stadium. The different hospitals and emergency services respond by connecting via the Internet, radio, and phone and coordinating their actions. The flow of action goes like this:
  1. The emergency services respond to the disaster and load up patients in ambulances and helicopters.

  2. Those front line personnel tag each patient which goes into the computer system into a main database accessible by each of the hospitals.

  3. The patients are 'routed' to various hospitals for treatment.

  4. Their information (which was entered into the database) is known ahead of time by the receiving hospital.

This system was designed after Hurricane Katrina to ensure that the chaos and errors that occurred would be lessened if something similar happened again.

The command center that is activated during the drill (or during a real event) is basically a gathering of employees who are over most aspects of the hospital. From security to managing local media to medical supplies, the command center is the main location for information and communication from everything that would be happening locally to what's happening at the site of the event.

I am unclear as to the participation of every hospital in the area, but I am assuming that most are participating. The EOC's website lists about forty hospitals, and I am assuming that is the majority of them.

The government also gives grants for participating hospitals to purchase equipment such as PCs, radios, etc. This is how I obtained my ham radio license (it's KE5WWV by the way). The hospital met certain conditions and got money for ham radios. Once the hospital had the radios they took volunteers and I was one of them. I went to a several week class and took my certifications (I got 2 of the 3 by the way). Me and the other 2 radio operators would rotate in and out over shifts in the event of an actual activation of the system.

We have had 2 major drills like the one tonight and everyone seems to be getting the hang of the whole thing. Of course, we are all relaxed and everything and a real event would be hectic and stressful I'm sure.

One final note on the drill. Almost all of the participants are hospital directors, and only about four of the twenty people there were hourly employees, so that was the one time I was making money (overtime) and rubbing it in at every chance I got!

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